Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Prisoners in the Palace

So, every fan of any media goes through burnout sometimes, some more frequently than others and some not often at all. I tend to go through a book burnout about once every two years (I think the last time this happened was when I read all of those really blah science fiction books two summers ago) and I'm in one of those stages now. I'm not seeing much I like at the library (not surprising considering how many years I've been going to each of them), going through my to-read list I'm baffled why some of those books are on there, and just not getting much pleasure out of reading. I grabbed this one from my school's library before exam week since I needed something to read when not studying and, well, at least it was better than the two or three books I tried before it from my list and ended up returning unfinished.

Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

Summary: Liza Hasting has just suffered two tragedies: her parents have died in a tragic accident and she is apparently left with no fortune nor skills to earn money with and will soon be destitute. Because of this she agrees to become Princess Victoria’s lady’s maid and, since she stands a better chance at paying off her father’s debtors if her lady becomes queen and rewards her, she finds herself acting as Victoria’s maid, confident, and spy on the things going on around her.

The Good: As far as I can tell this was a fairly historically accurate novel (which sounds strange since MacColl says in the author notes that she rearranged parts of Victoria’s life so that the story flowed better) and I can’t remember the last time I read a book set in/around the Victoria era which didn’t involve supernatural happenings, it was a nice change. Liza’s situation ended up being handled more realistically than I would have expected. Actually, the novel made me realize how much I missed the upstairs/downstairs going on at Downton Abbey and it makes me want to read/watch other stories with that same dynamic.

The Bad: In the end, even though this wasn’t a terrible read I just didn’t get anything out of it and I’m not sure why. Liza was an alright main character, although she lacked some spark that would have made her a memorable lead, but I did feel like Victoria was a really inconsistent character and it was hard to tell if she had grown at all by the end. The story was okay and worked yet, even seeing in the author’s notes that the pacing of real life events had been reworked to make the story flow better, it still felt a just bit too laid back considering what the stakes were. Everything just felt a bit flat about this book and, if I hadn’t just come off of two weeks where I couldn’t find anything that I was enjoying reading at all I probably wouldn’t have finished it.

So giving this just 2.5 out of 5 stars for being an okay book but not one I expect to remember long into the future. And crossing my fingers that I get out of this burnout soon, although it's going on for longer than it normally does.